Glenn Jacobs, a Truman State University alumni, went out of the box with his English degree. In a 23 year career with World Wrestling Entertainment, the masked wrestler Kane has garnered considerable success, gaining celebrity for, among other achievements, three world championships and a commendation by Sports Illustrated as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. But behind the mask there are other sides to the man known as Glenn Jacobs. On Aug. 2 he was elected as mayor of Knox County, Tennessee.
You spoke to The Index several years ago about your wrestling career; can you give us a brief recap of your biography up until you chose to run for political office?
I graduated from Truman I believe in the winter of 1991. I played basketball and football, ended up wrestling, actually going to World Wrestling Entertainment, where I had a very long career as the character Kane. And then I announced my candidacy for Knox County Mayor April of last year, won the primary by a very slim margin in May, and then just won the general election. So, I am the mayor-elect of Knox County.
Why did you decide to move in to politics from wrestling? It seems like a rather drastic career change.
Well, I think anything to politics could be considered a drastic career change, but I just want to do what I can to try to make my area the best place that it can be. I’ve had tremendous opportunities in my own life, and I want to make sure that my kids, my grandkids, everybody’s kids and grandkids, have those same opportunities. I’m a big believer in the American Dream, and I want to make sure that the American Dream will be available to future generations.
Why did you decide to run? Was there a particular moment or event that decided you?
Not really. It’s funny because I actually, in high school, I think when I was a sophomore, was the presidential election between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. We had a mock election in our social studies class and I played the role of Walter Mondale, so I’ve always actually had an interest in politics and government because it has such a huge impact on our lives. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen more and more the impact that it does have, and finally just reached the point to where in my personal life I felt that it was the right time for me to try to do something, and you know I just felt that it was incumbent upon me to try to do what I can.
To what do you attribute your success in the election? Can you point to a strategy or tactic that you did that your opponent did not?
Yeah, my team knocked on over 50,000 doors over the course of the election. Which is a lot, there’s 450,000 people in Knox County, so 50,000 doors is a lot. In the end, there’s a saying that all politics is local. It’s exactly true, and you know, I talked to some folks that are well-regarded campaigners and have won elected office, and they told me that’s what it is all about is just knocking on doors and getting out there and meeting people. So that’s the strategy that we took was a real grassroots effort. And then of course hopefully my message resonated with people, and then realizing that I was an unconventional candidate and I’d never run for office before. We did some things, you know my celebrity, we tried to take advantage of that to get people out and create a buzz.
As someone who has seen success in a couple of very different arenas, do you have any life advice for Truman students?
You know, people look at me and they see the things that I’ve succeeded at. But my life is actually defined more by my failures than my successes, and I think that’s true of anybody. You know, Winston Churchill said that success really means going from failure to failure with equal enthusiasm, and that’s been true in my life. If you want to succeed in life, the secret is just to never give up, to be persistent and to work hard. You know, when I was playing football at Truman I thought I was going to play in the national football league, and then I suffered a serious knee injury. Still went to the Chicago Bears camp but basically stayed overnight before I was given a plane ticket home and told that my knee injury precluded me from ever playing in the NFL. That was devastating to me. But what that did was that caused me to look at my life and the things that I was good at and the assets that I had, and that actually led to my career in professional wrestling. So that’s what I would tell people, is just to never, ever give up, you know. We all have dreams. We all have goals. And often what happens is when we finally achieve them, we find that we achieve them in different ways than we thought that we would, but we’re never gonna get there if we give up.